Once upon a time there was a martial arts practitioner -- me.
In the martial art I practice(d), meditation is done standing. The thighs are bent so that all the weight is absorbed by the leg muscles. In addition to dealing with the shaking legs and burnt muscle sensation, one is supposed to also clear his/her mind and focus on some distant point (there's more to it but I'm giving you the quick version).
To be honest, I hated it. Not so much because of the rigorous stance but more because I had a hard time "clearing my mind" and because, truth be told, I'd get bored. However, it's been nearly two years since I stopped practicing and I miss it terribly. More and more each day. I can't explain why I miss it, or what it is that I miss about it most. I also can't explain what is different about me when I practice (other than not having any bruises from sparring) than when I don't. I just know/feel that I miss it.
Then, a while back, I watched a show - The Pursuit of Happiness - where, among other things, they checked brain waves of Tibetan Monks(they meditate a lot). The brain waves showed that the monks were happy. Very happy.
It's very preliminary work, but the implication may be that the lamas are able to move right through distressing events that overwhelm the rest of us – in other words, one of the keys to their happiness.
It may tell us something about our potential. "Our brains are adaptable, our brains are not fixed. The wiring in our brains is not fixed. Who we are today is not necessarily who we have to end up being," Davidson says.
"Rather than thinking about qualities like happiness as a trait," Davidson says, "we should think about them as a skill, not unlike a motor skill, like bicycle riding or skiing. These are skills that can be trained. I think it is just unambiguously the case that happiness is not a luxury for our culture but it is a necessity."
About the same time I also came across this article in Nature about mind focusing as a result of meditation, again, of Tibetan Monks. (Alas, the article is now restricted to paying customers so here is another source for the same article.)
Meditation could conceivably help people with depression, or who have recently suffered a trauma, to stop their minds constantly dwelling on negative thoughts, she suggests.
"It has long been claimed by practitioners of meditation that when faced with bad news or tragic events they are able to acknowledge the tragedy, but rather than dwell on the situation they have the capacity to redirect their thoughts to other, more positive directions," Carter says. "This is something that the average person cannot do."
I, personally, always thought that the mind is something we can control and exercise more than we think. If we're down, we can make ourselves 'up' by positive thinking, if we're obsessed and/or worried we can calm ourselves by being occupied. The trick is not to get dragged down by emotions and not to let them control you. It's not easy to accomplish, and one needs to practice this a lot, but it is possible as the monks demonstrate.
What does that have to do with writing? I think everything in life has to do with writing, but I also think I wrote better and more when I was practicing.
My point? I have many: First, I think that despite my already existing scheduling problems, I'll go back to practicing my art this fall - obviously I miss meditating. Second, I'm going to control my mind into writing now. Last, I'm a true believer in happiness. Most times I'm happy because I choose to be. I think most people can be too. If with meditation, prayer or physical activity. Anything that can focus a mind is a good practice. More than anything, I'm a happiness practitioner.
[[A note: Meditating isn't practicing another religion. One can be of any faith and meditate, it isn't against any religious 'law' as far as I know.]]Categories: science, martial-arts, writing